BMW Is Serious About Sportbikes

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BMW recently announced that the new S1000RR superbike would be available for sale to the public in January, at a price that makes it very competitive with Japan’s Big 4.  Now, it appears that this was part of an intentional strategy to go after the Japanese market share in liter-bikes. And they’re confident enough in the new bike to predict a 20% increase in sales–even in this shaky economy–and to let the Japanese know that the Bavarians are taking aim at them.

“We are going to take the Japanese head-on,” said Pieter de Waal, vice president of the company’s U.S. motorcycle operations, at an event last week in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

The motorcycle’s introduction puts BMW into a niche — informally known as “crotch rockets” — dominated by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha Motor Co. and the Kawasaki brand owned by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. The four Japan-based companies have 88 percent of U.S. market share in the superbike category, De Waal said. BMW’s offering will be priced at $13,800, close to the four most popular competing motorcycles.

While it’s always good to see Germans in a buoyantly confident mood, some observers say, “Not so fast”.

“For BMW, which has always had a reputation of being a very high-priced motorcycle, it’s certainly a lot closer to the Japanese bikes in price,” said David Edwards, Cycle World magazine’s editor in chief. “That may be for some people a reason to consider it, especially if its performance lives up to expectations. But I don’t think you are going to see a mass exodus of Japanese sportbike riders going to BMW.”

2010 BMW S1000RR Superbike
2010 BMW S1000RR Superbike

Perhaps, but a lot of the liter-bike guys are crazy for motorcycle racing, and if BMWs race version can show up the Japanese bikes on the track, it can’t do anything but help their sales. And releasing the bike for public sale here in the US allows them to meet the homologation rules for AMA Superbike, so I’d bet very good money that we’ll see a BMW race team hitting the tracks next season.  If you really want to take on the Japanese–and the Italians, by the way–that’s the way to do it.

Although, having said that, Buell proved a few weeks ago that, while the AMA may have rules about homologation, they aren’t, you know, fanatics about them.

Rumblings From Harley?

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A few months ago, in April, the May edition of Cycle World magazine (link unavailable, it was print) printed a rumor on page 24 that Harley-Davidson was working on a V-4 power plant for…something.  Even Cycle World didn’t know:

Harley-Davidson is rumored to be working on a new V-Four engine. It is unclear whether the engine is for use in traditional H-D products and/or for Buell.

It was an interesting rumor, but nothing’s come out of it yet.

Now, there’s a new rumor floating around, which is that the MoCo is working on a brand new café racer bike.

There might be a pulse after all in the town of Milwaukee. A&R has gotten word that the Sultan of Slow is working on a cafe racer motorcycle, similar to the classic XLCR 1000.

If true (and not flubbed like the V-ROD), Harley-Davidson may have found the happy merger of maintaining its brand identity, and manufacturing a motorcycle for people that never owned a black & white television. We secretly hope this rumor is associated with the Harley-Davidson V4 rumor we heard not so long ago, but that may also then indicate Hell freezing over and the Earth collapsing in on itself like a dying star…

We’re always cautious about rumors here, and even more so when they involve H-D doing something right; so as usual, time will tell on this one.

I, for one, hope so.  H-D has such a great brand with so much potential energy, that they could be a powerhouse in motorcycling, if they’d just step out of the 60s.